|Bhupinder Singh and Debi Prasad Mishra
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 16: Opposition Congress members today walked out of the Assembly in protest after the government rejected their demand for payment of bonus and pension to farmers.
“The state government has no plans for payment of bonus for paddy or pension to farmers,” agriculture minister Debi Prasad Mishra said, responding to an Opposition-backed adjournment motion.
Angry Congress members, led by leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, walked out of the House shouting slogans against the government.
“It seems the Naveen Patnaik government has no concern for farmers, who are the backbone of agrarian Odisha,” said Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan.
Earlier, moving an adjournment motion, Harichandan had described the government as “anti-farmer”. He said while the state government had been announcing populist schemes such as Re 1 kg per rice scheme keeping the upcoming polls in mind, it had not bothered to address the problems faced by farmers.
While states such as Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are paying bonus to farmers over the minimum support price fixed by the Centre, the state government is not interested to give such assistance and prefers to pass the buck to the Union government, said the Congress leader.
Since the farmers do not get proper price, they are unable to repay loans and are being forced to commit suicide, he said, adding that 170 farmers in the state had killed themselves last year. He also demanded pension for farmers, who have worked for more than 30 years, as was being provided in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.
Congress member Anup Sai said though there had been a bumper paddy crop this year, the government agencies were not purchasing paddy from the farmers, forcing them to sell their produce at throwaway prices to private miller agents. He said the government should open purchase centres immediately to prevent distress sale of paddy.
While Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh governments are giving Rs 200 bonus per quintal of paddy, the Odisha government has ignored it, said Congress member from Balangir S.S. Saluja.